Monday, May 23, 2016

Sermon May 21-22, 2016 Holy Trinity

Title: The fullness of God in Christ revealed … for you!
Text: John 8:48-59

58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

During the Thirty Years' War in the 17th century, German pastor Paul Gerhardt and his family were forced to flee from their home. One night as they stayed in a small village inn, homeless and afraid, his wife broke down and cried openly in despair. To comfort her, Gerhardt reminded her of Scripture promises about God's provision and keeping. Then, going out to the garden to be alone, he too broke down and wept. He felt he had come to his darkest hour.
Soon afterward, Gerhardt felt the burden lifted and sensed anew the Lord's presence. Taking his pen, he wrote a hymn that has brought comfort to many. "Give to the winds thy fears; hope, and be undismayed; God hears thy sighs and counts thy tears; God shall lift up thy head. Through waves and clouds and storms He gently clears the way. Wait thou His time, so shall the night soon end in joyous day."
It is often in our darkest times that God makes His presence known most clearly. He uses our sufferings and troubles to show us that He is our only source of strength. And when we see this truth, like Pastor Gerhardt, we receive new hope. Are you facing a great trial? Take heart. Put yourself in God's hands. Wait for His timing. He will give you a "song in the night." 

Our Daily Bread, May 7, 1992.

And on this Trinity Sunday (Weekend) we look to the hope that is our one true God who has revealed himself as one divine essence, but also as three unique and coequal persons … Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And to this divine essence Jesus claimed Sonship, for the work He came to do and was to accomplish, in only what God could do in Christ by taking on human flesh and laying down His life for the sins of the world, paying the price that you and I could never pay and to this work and revelation Jesus claimed:

Before Abraham was, “I AM”!

The question that the Jews ask Jesus and the question that is asked many times over about Him; are you God?

The Jews first say that Jesus is a Samaritan and accuse Him of having a Demon! To which Jesus replies:

49 … “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 50 Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”

Well, this really gets under their skin because they are now convinced more than ever that Jesus has a Demon because they know that:

‘Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’

Unbelief really has them messed up. So they press the issue:

53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! (… and here comes the big question …) Who do you make yourself out to be?”

The question that the Jews want to know is the same question that human reason can never grasp. How can this man be God? Their reason tells them that this man Jesus is not yet fifty years old so how can he say that:

56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. (and that) He saw it and was glad.” Then Jesus makes one more statement that really causes grief and anger among the Jews. He says:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

Truly, Christ Jesus got their attention with this statement; claiming to be God and using God’s divine name!

In Genesis Chapter 15 God’s word says:

“… the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” (Gen 15:1b) And then He says:

“I am the LORD who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” (Gen 15:7b)

To claim God’s name was an offense for the Jews. For many in our day as well, the divine name of Jesus is an offense. In the gospel of John Jesus uses the divine name seven times.

1. I AM the Bread of Life (6:35, 41, 48)
2. I AM the Light of the World (8:12; cf. 9:5)
3. I AM the Gate (10:7, 9)
4. I AM the Good Shepherd (10:11, 14)
5. I AM the Resurrection and the Life (11:25)
6. I AM the Way and the Truth and the Life (14:6)
7. I AM the True Vine (15:1)

On the Feast of the Holy Trinity we understand that I AM is one God and that this one God is revealed as Father Son and Holy Spirit. The Athanasian Creed is long, has a strange name, is repetitive and may even appear confusing. We as LCMS Lutheran’s hold to the three Ecumenical Creeds but recite the Apostles Creed on non-communion weekends and the Nicene Creed on communion weekends but the Athanasian Creed is recited traditionally on Trinity weekend so we can be reminded of what the catholic (small “c” universal) faith is.

To know the true God is to know who he is and to know what He has done.

Our Creeds help us know God and confess what we believe.

Martin Luther thought highly of the Athanasian Creed. He said of it: 

I doubt whether, since the time of the Apostles in the New Testament Church, a more important and glorious creed has been written.

(W 6:2315) JMK

So why is it important? Well, is it important to know the truth? Is Jesus truly God, the great I AM or is He an impostor? Is the Holy Spirit God? Is the Father God? The first commandment says: You shall have no other Gods before me. So if one claims to be what they aren’t … they are a fraud!

Ill.

Hideyoshi, a Japanese warlord who ruled over Japan in the late 1500s, commissioned a colossal statue of Buddha for a shrine in Kyoto. It took 50,000 men five years to build, but the work had scarcely been completed when the earthquake of 1596 brought the roof of the shrine crashing down and wrecked the statue. In a rage Hideyoshi shot an arrow at the fallen colossus. "I put you here at great expense," he shouted, "and you can't even look after your own temple."

Today in the Word, MBI, August, 1991, p. 23.

To claim to be what you are not can be a crime. To claim to be God, if you are not, is blasphemy.

The glory that God seeks as Father is to honor the Son. This honor is pointed to as we heard last weekend by the Holy Spirit who is coequal with the father and the Son.

54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’

The glory that Jesus has is given because He is God in the flesh and truly worthy. Not a glory that Jesus gives himself but a glory that is bestowed because he is truly God.

The Athanasian Creed declares the truth of God as Trinity and the uniqueness of God in diversity of persons. God has come to stand in your place and you see the fullness of God in Christ Jesus who takes away your sin and the sins of the world. In Christ you have the fullness of God standing in your place and taking your sin upon himself, nailing it to the cross forever. In Christ the Father is well pleased and in Christ you are seen by the Father covered by Christ’s righteousness made possible by the working of the Holy Spirit who has created faith in you to believe and trust in Christ’s finished work.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen

Monday, May 16, 2016

Sermon May 14-15, 2016 Pentecost

Title: God’s Spirit teaches, points, and declares peace in Christ!
Text: John 14:23-31

25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

St Augustine wrote: I was weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when I heard the voice of children from a neighboring house chanting, "take up and read; take up and read." I could not remember ever having heard the like, so checking the torrent of my tears, I arose, interpreting it to be no other than a command from God to open the book and read the first chapter I should find. Eagerly then I returned to the place where I had laid the volume of the apostle. I seized, opened, and in silence read that section on which my eyes first fell: 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. Romans 13:13-14
No further would I read, nor did I need to. For instantly at the end of this sentence, it seemed as if a light of serenity infused into my heart and all the darkness of doubt vanished away. 

Augustine.

In our Gospel reading for today Jesus says:

23 “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me.

There is a unique use of the singular and plural. Jesus says his words are the Fathers who sent him. There is a connection between Son and Father. Last week it was … 22b that they may be one even as we are one, 

Farther and Son are both unique and distinct but we are told also still one in a unity. 

Ill.

This past month we’ve seen some change here at Peace - a new cross and a new organ. When I went to the Berkley church Evola Music sent two drivers for the moving of the organ. Some work could be done with one person, some two and on occasion the third man was needed. I removed the speakers in the back myself and the drivers were able to get the console on the dolly and off the Chancel steps. However when it was found that the organ didn’t fit in the elevator it needed to go down a ramp and a third man was needed, and that helper was me. I held the balance and guided the organ down the ramp – not doing the heavy lifting but guiding and pointing and helping the instrument through the opening and into the truck.

When the speakers needed to come down from the attic chambers where they were housed, Jeremy handed them down to me perched on the ladder and I handed then to Jeff and he lowered them to a dolly and rolled them out of the church.

In the same way when the organ was installed I served as a helper. Handing up and drill so the installer didn’t have to come down the ladder or aiding with the raising of the speakers on to the scaffolding so they could be lowered into the speaker chambers. As a helper, it required me to aid, point, guide, lift and to help those who were doing what they were called here to do.

In answer to the Third Article of the Creed, Martin Luther writes in the Small Catechism:

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true.

As we celebrate Pentecost today we celebrate the sending of the Holy Spirit. Not that the Holy Spirit was inactive because this is the same Spirit of God who in Genesis 1 was hovering over the face of the waters. 2 [Though] the earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.

This is also the same Spirit of God that the disciples received when Jesus breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” John 20:22-23

This is the same Spirit of God given in baptism that creates faith in the heart of the one being baptized, pointing to all that Jesus has done in his atoning work and bringing from death to life we who are dead in trespass and sin, making us alive in Christ and giving us the gift of faith to believe.

This is the same Spirit of God that is in you - throughout the life of the believer - that aids, points, guides, comforts, helps, and does battle against the world, the flesh and the devil keeping you and me united to Christ by faith as we daily die and rise in repentance and forgiveness – being sorry for our sin and knowing God’s true peace and comfort that we who are repentant are truly forgiven.

Ill.

20 years ago I learned a song called “Some may trust in horses” It was taken from Psalm 20 Verses 6 through 8.

6 Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed;
he will answer him from his holy heaven
with the saving might of his right hand.
7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
8 They collapse and fall,
but we rise and stand upright.

Today, and especially as Christians in the United States, we look for solutions to the problems we face, the breakdown of society, and granted we have a voice to speak up, to lobby our elected officials and governmental leaders, and also to vote for the freedoms we enjoy of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness granted to us in this wonderful Constitutional Republic we enjoy called the United States of America.

But, when our hope is placed in those whom we elect, and in those whom we support, we place our trust in horses and chariots and the men and women who hold that power instead of the name of our God – Jesus Christ our Lord.

In our Old Testament reading today the people had a plan:

“Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” Gen. 11:4

The leaders and the people had a plan to build to the heavens to worship self to do things their way … to trust in horses and chariots if you will. But God dispersed them by confusing their language. But, on the Day of Pentecost – as they were in one place – the Lord sent a rushing wind and tongues of fire that rested on the Apostles, and as they spoke those gathered were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?

And who were those that heard this word and understood?

Well, they were …

9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”

Those of Babel who proposed to build a tower were confused and dispersed by God in a miraculous way are now united in a common understanding by a similar miraculous way. God’s Spirit now brings understanding and clarity to what God has done for me and you in Christ.

The unity of the message won’t happen by sword, or by vote, or by the philosophical worldview of the leaders. It won’t come about by capitalism, socialism or communism. It won’t come about by taking from the rich and giving to the poor – that was the philosophy of Robin Hood –not our God.

It only comes about through the word of the Gospel and by the working of the Holy Spirit.

In his letter to the Philippians Paul makes clear what we should know:

12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through [Christ] who gives me strength. Phil 4:12-13 NIV

That is the work of the Holy Spirit to aid, to point, to guide, to comfort, and to help in all situations – pointing us to what Jesus has done for you and me. May that be your peace and comfort now and always.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen


Monday, May 9, 2016

Sermon May 7-8, 2016

Title: Love, the gift of God in Christ
Text: John 17 20-26

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,

22b that they may be one even as we are one,

26b that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote, "Do not waste your time bothering whether you 'love' your neighbor … act as if you did. As soon as [you] do this, you find [a] great secret. When you [behave] as if you loved someone you will come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will dislike him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less."

Our Daily Bread, February 14.

Jesus in his High Priestly Prayer in John 17 prays for not only those who believe in him but for those who will believe in me through their word.

It is the desire of our Lord that we be united to him even as he and the Father are one. [Vs 22]

23 I in them and you in me, [Christ in us] that they [you and me] may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

Love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

As we celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend we also know that Godly mothers also love those of us who sin much but also this may include God- mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and yes – in the absence of a mother – fathers, uncles, grandfathers and the like.

I would like to share with you the story of a teacher, Miss Thompson.

Ill.

Ted Stallard undoubtedly qualifies as the one of "the least." [He was] turned off by school; very sloppy in appearance; expressionless, and unattractive. Even his teacher, Miss Thompson, enjoyed bearing down her red pen -- as she placed Xs beside his many wrong answers.

If only she had studied his records more carefully. 

They read:

1st grade: Ted shows promise with his work and attitude, but (has) a poor home situation.
2nd grade: Ted could do better. His mother is seriously ill and he receives little help from home.
3rd grade: Ted is good boy but too serious. He is a slow learner. His mother died this year.
4th grade: Ted is very slow, but well-behaved. His father shows no interest whatsoever.

Christmas arrived. The children [brought] elaborately wrapped gifts on their teacher's desk. Ted brought one too. It was wrapped in brown paper and held together with Scotch Tape. Miss Thompson opened each gift, as the children crowded around to watch. Out of Ted's package fell a [broken] rhinestone bracelet, with half of the stones missing, and a bottle of cheap perfume. The children began to snicker. But she silenced them by splashing some of the perfume on her wrist, and letting them smell it. She put the bracelet on too.

At day's end, after the other children had left, Ted came by the teacher's desk and said, "Miss Thompson, you smell just like my mother. And the bracelet looks real pretty on you. I'm glad you like my presents." He left. Miss Thompson got down on her knees and asked God to forgive her and to change her attitude.

The next day, the children were greeted by a [changed] teacher -- one committed to loving each of them. Especially the slow ones. Especially Ted. Surprisingly -- or maybe, not surprisingly, Ted began to show great improvement. He actually caught up with most of the students and even passed a few.
Time came and went. Miss Thompson heard nothing from Ted for a long time. Then, one day, she received this note:

Dear Miss Thompson:

I wanted you to be the first to know. I will be graduating second in my class.

Love, Ted

Four years later, another note arrived:

Dear Miss Thompson:

They just told me I will be graduating first in my class. I wanted you to be first to know. The university has not been easy, but I liked it.

Love, Ted

And four years later:

Dear Miss Thompson:

As of today, I am Theodore Stallard, M.D. How about that? I wanted you to be the first to know. I am getting married next month, the 27th to be exact. I want you to come and sit where my mother would sit if she were alive. You are the only family I have now; Dad died last year.

Miss Thompson attended that wedding, and sat where Ted's mother would have sat. The compassion she had shown that young man entitled her to that privilege.

Jon Johnston, Courage - You Can Stand Strong in the Face of Fear, 1990, SP Publications, pp. 111-113.

Love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

All of us who have lost our earthly mothers joy in the faith given to them by the Holy Spirit as I do my own mother Eleanor Tkac and Monica’s mother Jeanne Comins. True blessings come in different ways. Both loved Jesus and his comfort and promise of his forgiveness and an eternity with him and those they also love. It is Christ’s desire that they be with him where he is and this is the comfort that we who remain cling to. That where Christ is there Love is and where Love is there is also those who by faith trust in him and his word of promise.

Earthly mothers who have believed and who also love their children also pray like Jesus that their children may also believe and be united to Christ. For those who have not been blessed with godly mothers God provides for all our needs by those who stand in their place - or it is God’s desire that none be lost.

This past Thursday was the celebration of the Ascension of our Lord, where Jesus returns to the right hand of God mediating our prayers to the Father. It is Jesus who both prays for us and hears our prayers. It is he who lived a sinless life in our place and died for us so that we might be saved.

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,

22b that they may be one even as we are one,

26b that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

It is through the love of Christ that we can love and be loved. May that comfort be your now and always.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen

Monday, May 2, 2016

Sermon April 30-May 1, 2016 Confirmation

Title: Christ’s peace overcomes the world!
Text: John 16:23-33

33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Somerset Maugham, the English writer, once wrote a story about a janitor at St. Peter’s Church in London. One day a young vicar discovered that the janitor was illiterate and fired him. Jobless, the man invested his meager savings in a tiny bicycle shop, where he prospered, bought another, expanded, and ended up with a chain of bicycle stores worth several hundred thousand dollars. One day the man’s banker said, “You’ve done well for an illiterate, but where would you be if you could read and write?” “Well,” replied the man, “I’d be janitor of St. Peter’s Church in Neville Square."

Bits and Pieces, June 24, 1993, p. 23

Being the janitor of St. Peter’s Church was not a bad job, and working in the church – in whatever capacity – is not a bad job. Even owning a fleet of bicycle shops … is not a bad job and may also be fairly lucrative. But, being loved by the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and being made his child … well … that is something to celebrate.

Today/ tomorrow we celebrate the Lord’s work in the lives of two of his chosen - Alex Powell and Cassidy Thompson. Both born about the time my family and I came to Peace.

I seem to have known them forever … and over this past year, in confirmation class we got to know each other a little better. Boom! Or, that is how Alex answered in response to each right answer. Boom! It’s funny but joyful as well. But, maybe it was Cassidy’s donkey? Well, that was just the donkey they talked about as we studied the 10th commandment.

As Luther wrote:

You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his manservant or his maidservant, his Ox or Donkey, cattle, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

I told them that our Ox and donkey was today more likely your riding mower and family dog … but it became Cassidy’s donkey. So, along with not coveting Cassidy’s donkey we learned quite a few things together. Most importantly though we learned that in baptism these two were brought to faith by our heavenly Father through the washing of water by that word and by his Holy Spirit they have remained in that faith and have/will confirm that reality.

Jesus says in our gospel today:

Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.

And then clarifies:

26 In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.

Together in class we learned to pray to the Father in Jesus’ name using the acronym ACTS - Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication. So we adore, confess, thank and ask God to supply all our needs in Jesus name.

Apart from me you can do nothing!

Jesus aid: 5I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

Jesus also said … but with God all things are possible.

24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”

Not … who then can be rich? But, who then can be saved?

26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matt 19:24-26

It is God who is active and who has given faith, through word and means. Alex being born on May 15 and Cassidy on May 16 of 2002 and reborn or born from above as God washed these children marking them as his own by water and the Spirit. Just as he has done for you and me marking us redeemed by Christ and keeping us in the one true faith now and forever.

Romans 11:17-18 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)

17 But if some of the branches were broken off, while you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among them to share the richness [of the root and sap] of the olive tree, - That is Jesus
18 Do not boast over the branches and pride yourself at their expense. If you do boast and feel superior, remember it is not you that support the root, but the root [that supports] you.

Through baptism you have been grafted in and that is all a gift from our heavenly Father.

Our gospel lesson today concludes with these words from Jesus.

33 I have said these things to you, that in me [in Christ] you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

You and everyone who follows Christ will see the tribulation promised. There may be a time of falling away even and it will largely not be when times are good – when things seem to be well and going your way … a time of prosperity. That is when Satan … will sift you like wheat, as he did with St. Peter and the other disciples in Luke 22:31, when St. Peter denied the Lord three times … even saying that “he didn’t even know the man.”

You may see that time too, a time of falling away, a time of unbelief, a time of trusting the world and the flesh, and a time of doubt. And like Peter today you may think “Not me Lord!” being ready to go to prison and even death for your faith in Christ.

23 [That like] those others [the fallen branches, Jews], if they do not persist in [clinging to] their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again.

And so to you … who may fall away for a time … God has gift for us all and will work repentance in you and me and those we love, to draw you and to bring you back into his peace and to his sheepfold … not letting any to be snatched from the palm of his hand.

It is here where Christ promises to be, it is in his house where forgiveness and his true body and blood take away sins and strengthen faith. It is where the peace that passes all human understanding is, in a world of chaos and corruption. It is where Jesus calls, gathers and feeds his sheep.

God has opened your heart and has given you his word and faith to believe may it always be here where you fine his pavilion of rest.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen